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Do My Kids Need Vaccines Before Traveling?

We’ll be taking a big family vacation in a couple of months. Do my kids need to get any special immunizations before we go?

If you plan to travel abroad or internationally it’s possible that your kids — and you — will need additional vaccinations. Different countries have different health risks and may require specific vaccines. For example, your family will need the yellow fever vaccine if you’re traveling to tropical and sub-tropical areas in Africa or South America.

To find out which vaccines your family needs, ask your doctor or visit the CDC’s travelers’ health website for a list of recommended or required vaccinations (you can search by destination).

Most immunizations should be given at least 1 month before travel, so try to schedule a doctor’s visit 4–6 weeks before your trip. This gives plenty of time for the vaccines to take effect, and allows for vaccines to be given over a period of days or weeks, if necessary. But even if you’re leaving in less than 4 weeks, you should still make an appointment, as kids might still benefit from shots or medicines.

Depending on your travel plans, your doctor may recommend that in addition to routine immunizations, you and/or your kids be vaccinated against:

All kids get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at 12–15 months of age, and the hepatitis A vaccine between their first and second birthdays. But any who will travel outside the United States before that can get these vaccines as early as 6 months of age. They will still need the routine vaccines after their first birthday.

Kids of any age can get malaria, so if you’re traveling to a country with a malaria risk, talk to your doctor about antimalarial drugs.

The COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for all adults and kids ages 6 months and up. Booster shots are recommended for everyone ages 5 and older. It can be complicated to travel when unvaccinated, as some countries require COVID-19 vaccination for entry. Also, some hotels, restaurants, or tourist attractions may require COVID-19 vaccination. Traveling during the pandemic can be risky if it involves exposure to crowded airports and vacation destinations. This is why experts strongly recommend that everyone who is eligible get a COVID-19 vaccine before travel.

And if you’re traveling internationally, be sure to take your kids’ immunization records with you when you go.